Building at the Intersection
Power Women is a Fellowship Holding impact startup that supports working women navigate through challenges in their careers and makes it easier for them to reach their full potential. Our pioneering virtual model supports working women across phases, from pregnancy and motherhood to career transitions and accelerations, delivering better growth and well-being outcomes, and transforming lives.
About the Study
This study is based on two years (2020-2022) of extensive research led by Power Women which included surveys, in-depth interviews, and focus groups. The objective of this research was to understand the following:
The key barriers women leaders face on their path to success
The needs and aspirations of women leaders
How can we help them succeed and reach their full potential
We looked at the perspectives of three key stakeholders during the study: HR Professionals, Women Leaders, and Global Experts.
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Building at the Intersection
Understanding the Organisational Perspective
To give this study a more comprehensive outlook, it was necessary to understand the unique challenges organizations face in retaining and accelerating women and the solutions they have currently adopted. We conducted in-depth 1:1 interviews with multiple key HR professionals and leaders from diverse industries.
Organizations acknowledged the lack of gender diversity during the interviews. 70% of HR professionals spoke about the lack of women in leadership positions and shared key barriers to balanced workplaces. They talked about three key issues:
Issues in retaining and accelerating women
With the ever increasing women graduating from universities and joining the workforce, organisations are now more balanced at the junior levels. They are able to attract good female talent at the entry levels. The HR professionals and leaders in our study talked about their difficulties in retaining and accelerating this talent to senior leadership.
Disproportionate care burden falls on women
The "care burden" falls disproportionately on women as they are the primary caregivers. HR professionals spoke about top talent leaving their organizations especially due to caregiving reasons. While organizations recognized the uneven care burden that fell on most women, they failed to acknowledge how this burden negatively impacted their overall health.
Although in most cases there is support from management and boards in organizations to drive diversity, there are biases, especially in mid-management, making the implementation of such initiatives difficult. During our interviews with women leaders, 8 out of 10 confirmed they had faced bias in their work-life.
"We are good at attracting female talent, but keeping those female leaders is the real challenge. Due to the "broken rung," two times more women leaders were lost compared to men."
HR Leader (FMCG), India
A Look at the Experiences of Women Leaders
We looked at the experiences of women leaders to understand the challenges they face in work-life. We ran multiple surveys, conducted 1:1 interviews, and curated personalized support groups to build and test our solution. The three key problems identified by women leaders are:
Lack of psychological safety and peer support
Women leaders are more unlikely to share their challenges with coworkers due to a lack of psychological safety. They lack a support network and a safe non-judgemental space to discuss their unique work-life challenges.
Burnout due to lack of self-care and me-time
Women leaders are burned out due to a lack of self-care and me-time. Many we interviewed had left their workplace. They had more caregiving responsibilities at home and in general, missed "me" time.
Everyday bias, it's lonely at the top
Most women experience bias in their work lives. The lack of diversity in leadership makes it even more profound and difficult for them to navigate and build supportive environments around them.
"It's lonely also for men, but it’s particularly difficult for women because of all sorts of bias that exists."
Partner (Consulting), Middle East
Women want Career Advancement and
Despite all challenges, 80% of women surveyed said their goal was to advance in their careers. Many were also looking for improved health. Over half of them had health-related goals. 60% were looking for peer support and a safe space to share challenges and get unbiased advice.
"I want to grow in leadership positions as a woman of color. I want to tackle challenges I face in moving into senior leadership positions. Resolve the "people pleasing" dilemma. Seeking ideas on how to navigate a career path in a field which is new and no blueprint to reference."
Finance (Non-for profit), USA
Women's careers and well-being are highly correlated
Our study revealed a correlation between women's careers and their health and well-being. Women's careers and well-being especially once they are mid-senior (30+) and around maternity until senior management are highly correlated. By solving at the intersection of career and wellbeing, Power Women was able to help women thrive in their work-life.
Our Solution at the Intersection of Career and Well-Being
Based on the insights we gained, we built a solution at the intersection of career and wellbeing. The solution is built on the following 3 core pillars: building Psychological Safety and Safe Space, Improving Health and Wellbeing and Accelerating Growth.
Pyschological Safety and Safe Space
Women face different challenges across different phases of their professional journey. We ran assessments to match them into personalized support groups. The intimate setting gave psychological safety and 9/10 felt SAFE in opening up about their challenges with their peer group. 90% of members said their peer group helped them navigate work-life challenge.
Improved Health and Wellbeing
The participants set health goals and hold each other accountable. Assignments, health checklists, and honest conversations with health coaches and experts promote self-care. Support groups lend emotional support and help build resilience. Over 90% of participants reported improved health and wellbeing.
It is important for women to get together to share experiences and motivate and guide each other. My group patiently listens to my problems. They help me by sharing their experiences and advice. My group makes me feel heard and supported.
MD (Banking), UK
One of the goals I had was to focus on my health and mental well-being, and it was very well taken care of. It made me take time for myself and focus on spending quality time with my daughter. In terms of my physical health, I took up weightlifting, and the program helped me stay accountable to these goals.
Director (Family Business), UAE
Women leaders connect with peers across diverse fields and geographies building cognitive diversity and strengthening networks. They receive access to a structured program through Power Women Academy, our ed-tech platform. They set goals, track progress & hold each other accountable. The program & content drove growth & improved wellbeing. 74% experienced career acceleration.
Working with some of the best coaches and peers has helped me narrow down my purpose and values. With these sessions, I also had the time to reflect on personal learning and achievement. It has given me the opportunity to brainstorm my career path and receive healthy feedback and opinions.
SVP (Corporate), India
Engaging Global Experts to Solve Equity
As part of our study, we engaged global experts including academia, corporates, executive coaches, health experts, etc. We had important conversations from purpose and leadership to investing and getting board positions and even dealing with anxiety and elderly care. Everything that impacts the leadership journeys of women leaders.
Recommendations for Organisations
1. Walk the Talk
Balanced organizations have better business outcomes. Diversity is not a women's topic it's a core strategic objective and should be at the core to build balanced organizations. Plan and execute DEI programs strategically and include and engage men to succeed. Men are key decision-makers in most organizations and need to proactively lead DEI initiatives to bring about change.
2. Build at the Intersection
Our research shows that women leaders can thrive when we build development programs focused on supporting them and building at the cross-section of both Health and well-being. Organizations need to give women a safe space and psychological safety and offer support by focusing on both career advancement and overall well-being.
3. Stop Fixing Women
Women leaders in organizations are over-mentored, over-trained, and under-sponsored. Organizations should move away from fixing women leaders and provide the required support to help them thrive. Our research included leaders with exceptional professional backgrounds from across geographies, renowned institutions and strong professional networks.
From the Founder's Desk
When I started my professional journey, I believed that the playing field was level, without any pay gaps or ceiling barriers. But my unique experiences in the workplace as a woman of color taught me otherwise. I realized I need to find the right networks and build a support system around myself to overcome these challenges.
I started looking for a community of women leaders like myself, especially women of color so that we could support each other. Strangely enough, when I searched, I couldn’t find such a space and ended up founding Power Women.
On this journey, I met incredible women, with stellar backgrounds and experiences, excelling yet facing unexpected and unfair barriers in their work-life. We listened to them. We worked with them. We heard their pain. We celebrated their successes. We know that gender parity is distant. But we CANNOT wait. We can build a solution that helps women navigate through these barriers and succeed in their work life. This is precisely what we did.
Founder, Power Women